Kubrilesque Plumbs the Depths of the Stanley Kubrick Filmography (Yes, Even Barry Lyndon)
Burlesque artist Crystal Swarovski (no, it's not the name on her birth certificate) has some regrets about The Furry.
Kubrilesque, the burlesque parody of the film oeuvre of Stanley Kubrick that she's been workshopping and staging in various iterations in the U.S. and Europe off and on for eight years, has a section devoted to the classic 1980 horror picture The Shining, naturally. The show covers the latter dozen of Kubrick’s movies, from 1955’s Killer’s Kiss up through Eyes Wide Shut, released four months after the director’s death in 1999.
Like the rest of the show, the number based on The Shining has evolved over time as Crystal has found more opportunities to reference characters and moments from the film. The Capital Fringe production that opens tonight is substantially altered from the show’s prior incarnation, in Hollywood, shortly before Swarovski moved to Virgina with her husband in 2011. Before that, Kubriliesque played the Prague Fringe Festival in 2009.
"I’ve always had the Shining twins,” Swarovksi says—meaning the the beyond-creepy, speaking-in-unison little girls in blue dresses who haunt the long hallways of the Overlook Hotel—“but we’ve added a lot of characters and dimensions this time, even a little furry. Which is something I think only people who’ve seen The Shining a hundred times even remember.”
Or conversely, something that people who can only stand to pull the The Shining out of their Kubrick Blu-Ray box set every few years (Hi!) can’t bleach out of their brains. Here’s the scene, if you care to revisit it.
Anyway, the furry who appears in Kubrilesque isn’t a perfect homage to the mouse—or rabbit, maybe?—glimpsed briefly in the movie. “We couldn’t find an exact replica,” Swarovski says. “It's another monkey. We already had ape suits because of [the “Dawn of Man” prologue to 2001: A Space Odyssey], so we kind of had to make do.”
Swarovski says she chose Kubrick's films as the basis for her show not only for the astonishing quality of his body of work, but because the individual films are so different from one another. And their instantly recognizable visual iconography—A Clockwork Orange's Malcolm McDowell in fake eyelashes and a bowler, flashing a grin of pure malice and "ultraviolence"; Dr. Strangelove's Slim Pickens straddling an atomic bomb as it falls to Earth—makes them easy to parody.
But it's more than a few added visual cues that sets this version of Kubrilesque apart from its precursors: "This is the first time there's actually going to be a story," Swarovski says. Where the piece was once simply a series of dance numbers affectionately mocking Kubrick's films in chronological order, Swarovski has now grafted on a narrative speculating that the director may have fallen victim not to a heart attack, but to a murderous conspiracy.
There's plenty of alluring Kubrickian innuendo out there, she notes: He was the filmmaker who helped NASA fake the moon landing in 1969. He was killed because Eyes Wide Shut, with its memorable cloaks-and-masks orgy sequence in a huge mansion, revealed too much of a secret society of which the film's star, Tom Cruise, is a real-life member. That sort of thing.
She doesn't necessarily buy any of this. But it all makes for a good show.
Another revised element is the barbershop-quartet number built around A Clockwork Orange's home-invasion and rape scene—a scene that was, for all its brutality, already more or less a song-and-dance number as it appears in the original movie.
"This is probably the most gruesome Clockwork Orange number we've ever done," she says. Figuring out how to pay homage to the most shocking Kubrick film is a problem that's vexed Swarovski from the show's earliest iterations.
"You can put a sexy girl up there dancing to a song in a Droogie costume, and that gets by," she says. But this time, she's trying an approach intended to acknowledge the horror and revulsion the scene elicits.
Kubrilesque will feature a rotating cast based on the performers’ availability, typically 20 to 25 people on any given night. But for the first time, Swarovski won't be among them. "The added scenes, the singing... if I was in the cast, I wouldn't be able to direct it."
The director of a show about Stanley Kubrick is a control freak? Heaven forfend.
Kubrilesque premieres tonight at 8 p.m. at Gala Theatre at Tivoli Square. Tickets are available here.